Black Lives Matter in Story, Too

Black Lives Matter

The protagonist of my novel is half African American. When I began writing (oh, so long ago), I had a good reason for her (white) mother’s lover to be a black man. Basically, I wanted to layer in that mom’s brother had been sexually abusive, while dispelling any notion that my main character’s uncle is also her father.

Still with me?

The story has changed a lot since then, and the incest bit has fallen away. Her uncle is just her uncle, and her mom was not sexually abused. But I kept the bit about about mom running off, pregnant at sixteen, because that’s the kind of person the mom is, and the fact that she ran off with a black man seemed neither here nor there, so I left it.

It is no longer “important” that my main character be half black. But she is.

Recently, I was told that my audience for the book will be bigger if she’s white. Just drop the race thing and make her white. It doesn’t matter. And besides, who am I to write a half black character?

Truth be told, it is a little daunting as a white writer. I want to be sure I tell a story that rings true, but this is who my character is, and I don’t want to change her into a white girl just because that’s what the market wants. It’s that kind of thinking that continues to have white men dominating everything from astrophysics to feature films. Fuck the market. If people don’t want to pick up my book because the main character is a half-black woman, then they’re racist mother fuckers who probably won’t like my book anyway.

So I guess it is important that my character is half black. Or rather, it’s just as important that she’s half black as it is that she’s half white. This is who she is. Just like in life, we are who we are.

That said, I’m still afraid of fucking it up. So, if there’s anyone out there who has some first-hand knowledge of being an African American woman in a white man’s world, holler – I’d love to get your feedback on my next draft. I promise to list you in the acknowledgements.

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I am Voting for Hillary Because She Has a Vagina

Yes, that’s right, I said it. I am voting for Hillary because she has a vagina and you can’t stop me.

I can already hear the men in my life protesting (hi dad). You can’t choose whom you’re voting for based on what’s hanging, or not hanging, between their legs. To that I say: like hell I can’t.

Hillary Penis Free

What are we really doing in an election? We are choosing someone to represent us in the governmental goings on of our country. If you’re a man, then the county has been represented by someone like you since its very inception. Everyone ever elected to presidential office in the US has had a dick.

The dicks have been running the show for a long time, and frankly, I’m unimpressed.

So this year, given the opportunity to vote for a representative who actual represents me, as an American woman, I’m voting for Hillary.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not voting for Hillary JUST because she is a woman and I wouldn’t vote for JUST any woman. Take Palin, for instance. There’s not enough guacamole in Mexico to make me vote for that nut job.

But given two good choices (one male, one female), I’m giving the woman an extra ten points simply for being her.

I know a lot of people will object and I suspect that most of those people are male. So guys, take a minute and try to imagine a country where every president has been female. Just attempt to conjure a history wherein only a fraction of our representatives (from mayor on up to the senate) are men. Consider what it would be like to live in a country where men made 79 cents for every dollar a woman made – and that was considered improvement.

The truth is, if you are a white man in America, you have no perspective on this.

And ladies, I understand you may not agree. You may honestly think the men are doing a fine job. For all I know, you would prefer to elect a former reality TV star that derides anyone who isn’t a white male. You might also be a redneck idiot.

Take a moment, ladies, and consider who it is you really want to represent you. Then vote accordingly.

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Defending My Writing Time

For the past four years, I have been getting up at 5am to write. It was a tough transition at first, getting up that early, but between working full-time, taking care of two kids, and occasionally exercising, it just ended up being the easiest time of day to consistently set aside time to write. Over the years, I have really come to love my early morning writing time.

The trouble is, I’m always exhausted. I try to go to bed early, but often end up reading until eleven. Over time, the lack of sleep starts to build up. Daniel called me out on that last night. After dinner I said “I can’t believe how tired I am.” He remarked that I’ve been saying that every night for about two months (which is, not coincidentally, when I started feeling better and resumed my writing).

Given that I am (f)unemployed right now, I got to wondering why I’m still getting up so early to write. What I realized is that it is simply my most defensible time. The kids are asleep, no one expects a call or even an email that early in the morning, there are no errands to run. I’m afraid that if I shift to sleeping in and writing after I drop the kids at school I will get distracted.

Can I block out two hours every morning and write? Or will I end up writing a blog post, dicking around on social media, planning camping trips, doing the dishes, or employing one of a hundred other procrastination tactics?

I sure would like the extra sleep. It might be worth a try.

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We Got The House!

Daniel was asleep when I got home last night. I snuck into bed and curled up beside him. At about 1 in the morning he rolled over and asked me what I was doing on March 4th. I think I groaned something like “shut up,” because really, 1 in the morning is not the time for calendar talk. But when he asked again, and I pushed back “why?” he told me that March 4th is the day we take possession of our new house.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep after that. I’m so excited! Part of me can’t believe it’s really happening, and I guess, too, I shouldn’t get all worked up until escrow closes. We still have inspections to do, and I suppose anything could happen, but as of this morning, we got the house!

Here it is:
4420

Isn’t it just the picture of suburban bliss? I never thought that would be something I would be so excited about, but the kids have changed me. If it were just me and Daniel, we would probably stay in Silver Lake forever, but I just love the idea of walking the kids to school, having a big yard, and getting a dog. I am so excited.

And doesn’t it just figure that Daniel’s new freelance gig starts just weeks before the move? It’s going to be a hectic spring with lots of changes, and I will continue to get up every morning at 5am to write through it all.

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I Ran A 5K!

I ran my first 5K yesterday! I’ve been running with a couple of friends on Thursday nights at the community “fun run” hosted by A Runner’s Circle in Los Feliz, and they invited me to join their group and run the Griffith Park Half Marathon and 5K with them (we all ran the 5K).

Race day 5K

It was super fun, aside from the fact that I was sick all last week, and still wheezing a bit on race day. I ran the whole thing, at about a 10:40 pace, and made a couple new friends. My old gym teacher, who flunked me EVERY DAMN TIME we had to try to run a 10 minute mile, would be (kinda) proud.

It’s all part of my plan to work up to running the Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon on my birthday this year in May. My bestie and I are training together, which is tricky when you live 300 miles apart. Basically we text each other after each training run to talk a little smack (and sometimes even encourage each other).

Next up: a 10K on Easter weekend. We’re meeting in Santa Cruz for that one. If you’d told the pudgy, seventh-grade me that I would ever run for fun, I would never have believed you, but it’s true. I’m loving it.

In other news, we got a counter-offer on the house. It would seem that we’re in competition with one other family. We went and looked at it again today (still perfect), and are putting in our counter-counter tomorrow. This process is surprisingly nerve-jangling. Fingers still crossed.

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Fingers Crossed

I should be writing. But I can’t get my mind off the fact that we made an offer on a house and the owners are making their decision today. We find out tomorrow if we got it or not. I’m excited to distraction. It is a perfect house for us.

Ever since we found out our second-born was to be a boy we’ve been thinking about having another bedroom. For some reason I was just convinced we would have two girls, and they would share the room. But they need their own space. That probably would have been true for two girls, too. Oh well. Longterm planning has never been my strong suit.

We love our house, particularly the view, and the neighbors (so awesome), so for a while we thought we would remodel. But we live on a steep hill, with no easy access to the back of the house, which makes remodeling crazy expensive. I mean, crazy stupid expensive. So we went house hunting. But we couldn’t find anything we loved so we went back to the architects and tried another version of the remodel. Still expensive. We have been flopping back and forth between ideas for possibly remodeling and house hunting for five effing years now.

But on Tuesday we found it. The perfect house. If we get it, I’ll tell you all about it, but for right now, I’ll just share a picture of our view.

Cicero view

If we’re ready to give this up, you know the new house is pretty amazing.
Fingers crossed.

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Thank you

My most sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who read my post on Monday and responded with so many encouraging words. In all honesty, I’ve written that post three different ways over the past few months, trying to figure out how I wanted to frame the whole thing, every time questioning whether it was even a good idea to share what I’ve been going through.

I’m so glad I did.

In addition to the posts on Facebook, I’ve had emails and IMs from friends I haven’t heard from in a long time, wishing me well and suggesting we meet up. Even my neighbor stopped me yesterday to talk. She thanked me for sharing so honestly. She said we always preset ourselves to each other as if everything is great, which not only is (sometimes) inauthentic and isolating, but also serves to present a standard of perpetual happiness that is frankly unobtainable.

The past few days have felt like a revelation. In honor of all the wonderful people in my life, I hereby promise to always strive to put my true self forward, to share honestly and revel in the fact that I have some amazing friends that are all struggling with the same shit.

If it’s at all practical for us to get together, I’ll be reaching out soon. I can’t wait to catch up and hear what the wonderful people in my life are up to.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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My Mid-Life Crisis (in a nutshell)

I revealed myself a bit on Friday. I am (f)unemployed.

But April, weren’t you just bragging about your great new job?

Why, yes. Yes I was.

Last March I started a new job at an engineering firm. It actually was pretty great. As far as professional writing jobs go, it was more than great, it was unbelievable. I worked four days a week, got paid a totally decent salary, and I loved the people.

The biggest downside was that I got very lonely. My office (I had my own office!) was a small windowless room. I sat there all day by myself. As nice as the people were, I had very little interaction with them. When I took the job, we had agreed that I would work from my “home” office, which is really the corner of Daniel’s office. I love it there. Daniel and I can talk and share music, and I know a lot of the other people in the building, so it’s very friendly. But working remotely didn’t work out. So I was commuting half an hour each way, to sit alone all day. I left as the kids were waking up and came home just before bedtime. It began to wear on me. If it’s one thing I cannot tolerate, it’s anything that gets in the way of my time with my kiddos.

But that wasn’t why I had to quit. Not completely.

By August, I was truly depressed. I was also drinking too much, which really wasn’t helping. It got to the point that I had to come clean to the HR lady at work. I was just sitting at my computer all day staring. Doing nothing. I figured I had to tell someone what was going on, or I was likely to get fired. She was very understanding. She insisted that I take a leave of absence immediately and take care of myself.

So I did. I was even able to get some disability pay to soften the blow financially. It’s embarrassing to apply for disability pay. All my life I’ve told myself to just suck it up, but I couldn’t any more. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.

I enrolled in a treatment program at a place called Refuge Recovery here in LA. What immediately became clear was that my depression had actually begun to build in the fall of 2014 when I took a class called The Meaningful Life, taught by George Hass. It blew apart my entire sense of self, and sent me spiraling into depression. If you ever get the chance to take it, I highly recommend it.

Yes, I know that sounds ass backwards. But here’s the thing. I had been cruising along feeling pretty meh about life. My family is amazing, but everything else felt like just getting along, marching towards death. I think it’s fair to describe it as a mid-life crisis. It’s cliché, but I was overwhelmed by the sense that “there must be more to life than this.” When I took the class, which was largely meditation based, I began to understand what really mattered to me. It’s the people in my life, both family and friends. Real connections with people I love.

This realization and my super-lonely work environment were completely opposed to each other, but I didn’t think there was anything to be done about it.

To quiet the unhappy feelings, I drank, which helped temporarily, but only compounded my problems in the morning when I was too tired (or hung-over) to get up and write. I stopped writing. I stopped exercising.

That’s when things really got bad. That’s where I was when I went into the HR lady’s office and ended up taking a leave of absence.

That was five months ago. Officially, I quit in December, though I hadn’t been to work in three months by then. In my outpatient program, I dove deep into the mess that had been stirred up by the Meaningful Life class. I had a psychiatrist, two therapists, and daily group sessions. I meditated a lot.

I don’t know where I’m going from here. I quit drinking. I’m writing daily, exercising three times a week, and trying to figure out what I want to do to earn a paycheck.

Funempoyed isn’t quite the right word. I still have tough days. I’m still working through some hard shit. But the feeling that there must be more has evaporated. I feel like I’m living a life that is much more authentic to the life I had hoped to have. When I do take a job, it will be somewhere with people, doing something that I really care about. I don’t know what that is yet, but I have hope that I will figure it out. Or maybe I’ll go back to freelance (even though I said I never would). I don’t know.

I’m making an effort to spend time with a friend every day (be it coffee, lunch or going for a run), to foster real connection with the people I hold dear, share what’s going on with me and hear what’s happening in their lives. It’s not something I have a lot of practice with, which sounds odd, but it’s true.

As midlife crises go, this one is much cheaper than a sports car, and I get the sense that ten years down the road, the value will have only increased.

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DIY Coin Banks for the Kids

I don’t usually post DIY stuff, but I just have to share this one because I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.

See, we’ve been trying to teach the kids about money. They get $1.50 a week for their chores. Fifty cents goes into savings, fifty cents goes into a charity fund, and they get to spend fifty cents however they want. The trouble is, having three banks is awkward. It takes up too much room on their shelves. We tried just putting envelopes in one of the banks, but that was weird too.

So I got to thinking, we need smaller banks that don’t take up too much space on their bookshelves. Here’s what I came up with:

Mason Jar Bank

I wanted the kids to be able to drop the coins into each jar easily, prevent the coins from spilling when the jars are inevitably knocked over, and be able to remove the top when it came time to use the money inside. Here’s how I did it.

step by step DIY coin bank

First, I found a few mason jars. We have a couple dozen mason jars kicking around because frankly, I find them tremendously useful for all kinds of things (remind me to tell you how they make dinner at a halloween party super easy).

Second, I found an old scrap of leather. I’m not sure why I had this lying around. I tend to hang onto things like that. I have a whole drawer full of crafty bits. I used the original top of the mason jar to trace circles on the leather then cut out the pieces.

Third, I folded the leather circle in half to cut a slit in it about the size of a quarter.

Fourth, I used my handy hot glue gun to glue the leather circle into the screw top of the mason jar.

Last, I used some contact paper to make little notes for the front saying which jar is for what.

Ta-da!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

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My Writer’s Notebook

I carry a small writer’s notebook with me everywhere I go. It’s something I’ve done for nearly a decade, though for a long time I did it simply because I had a general feeling that I should. It wasn’t until 2010 that I got organized about it, and actually came to understand the importance of my writer’s notebook.

writers notebook

For me, the value is two-fold.

First, and most important, is practice. A teacher once told me that a writer should be able to describe the weather every day using different words, even here in LA where it doesn’t change much. Describing things in a way that is effective and interesting is actually something that takes practice. So I practice.

Second, it’s material. When I’m stuck in line or waiting for my kids to finish a soccer practice or karate class, I study someone and write down everything I can figure out about them from what I see.

The trick is that having all this material isn’t much good if I can’t find it. In THEORY, when my little notebook is all full, I type it up, saving each little snippet of brilliance in a separate Word file, organized by the type of note it is. I have a folder for landscapes, character studies, smells, sounds, tastes, weather, and parenting anecdotes. I also keep a file for story ideas, so that if I’m ever stuck, I can just go look over all the amazing ideas I’ve ever had.

I say “in theory” because in practice, I’ve been filling notebooks for years and haven’t transcribed any in a long time. They are piling up and not doing me any good. So my New Years resolution is to actually get through this entire stack by the end of January. Then I can toss the actual notebooks, so that they’re not cluttering up my shelves, and hang onto all the content.

It’s actually part of a larger, unofficial resolution to stop holding onto so much junk. Maybe it was having babies, or maybe it’s just that we haven’t moved in a long time, but I feel like the stuff is piling up in my life, and I’m over it. I just want it gone. Anything that can be thrown away, recycled, or put on my lap top will be dealt with accordingly in short order.

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